Written by Anita Shafran
I was fortunate to celebrate this past Pesach in Israel together with my daughter Sara. We spent the Chag with my daughter Shelley, who made Aliyah twelve years ago. Rabbi Avi Berman (Executive Director, OU Israel) brought us to Kiryat Shmoneh, where Sara made Mezuzot with the Oraita kids in the beautiful center of Beit Vancouver.
We then drove to Tiberius and met with the the Jack. E. Gindi Oraita club in their meeting room in a bomb shelter. It was the night before Yom HaShoah. During the discussion, the boys said that they had never been to Jerusalem. I turned to Avi and said, “In a few years or less, we are going to have these boys put on an IDF uniform and ask them to defend our people and this land. How are they to understand what is being asked of them if they don’t understand the importance of Jerusalem?”
During our Selichot tefilot we pray: “זכור ה’ חיבת ירושלים אהבת ציון אל תשכח לנצח”
(G-d, remember Your love of Jerusalem, the love of Zion do not forget for eternity).
My parents love of Eretz Israel and Ahavat Israel was a large part of our identity growing up. My father, David Shafran z”l, was a survivor of the Shoah. Towards the end of his life he was supposed to begin dialysis. He refused to start dialysis until he had taken his six grandchildren to Israel. I promised him that there was no question that we would take the kids to Israel. He insisted that he take them himself. That is how my family, and my brother and his family, accompanied him to Israel. There we held a ceremony in memory of my mother, Lil Shafran z”l, at a research centre that grew roses in hothouses in the Negev. This honored her love of the land.
My father was very ill. One day while we were in Jerusalem, my father couldn’t sleep as there were a bunch of kids playing outside. I told my dad that I was sorry that the kids were noisy and he couldn’t rest. He told me, “There’s no greater sound in the world than the sound of Jewish children laughing.” I realized that for years, as over ninety percent of Jewish children in Europe were being murdered, there was a great void of Jewish children, much less the sound of their laughter.
I would like to thank Rabbi Berman, Chaim Pelzner and the entire OU Israel staff for organizing this wonderful trip bringing youth from eleven cities for their first trip to the Kotel. It is a great joy and privilege to hear the voices of our wonderful Israeli children fill the streets of our Holy City, Jerusalem.
Read more about the David & Lil Shafran Educational Selichot Yerushalayim Trip.